Ham’s War Memorial as it was between the Wars

The Parish War Memorial

The Parish War Memorial

The Parish War Memorial was erected on an additional 30 foot square piece of land granted by the Urban District Council specifically for the purpose, at the West End of the churchyard. That piece of land can be clearly seen in the photo on the left.

At some point Evelyn Pritchard obtained access to a record of the names as inscribed on the Parish War Memorial, when it was first erected and consecrated in 1920. [1]

She records that not only had the names once been listed in order of the date of death, but notes also that “Christian names” had been represented by initials unless “especially desired in full by the relatives”.  Thus the first name on the memorial was that of Albert E. Thurley (who was lost at sea 22 September 1914) while the last was J.L. Frost (who died of wounds 12 October 1918).

Visitors between the First and Second World Wars, were able to read information about the men that included each man’s rank, unit and date of death.  Observing that those “full inscriptions [seemed] to give more life to the men than the names alone,” Miss Pritchard helpfully listed those details in her typed notes.

There are some slight differences between some of the information on the CWGC database and the dates of death as copied in these notes, some of which were presumably provided by relatives or local employers.  It was not unusual for relatives to be unsure of the exact date on which a relative had died.  Sometimes the War Office date did not match information the family received from the deceased’s fellow servicemen, for example in a case where a body was not recovered at the time of death.

Some of the discrepancies on the list may be due to a transcription error at some point, possibly when the names were recorded before their removal.  A. G. (Arthur George) Brixton is, for example, almost certainly the A G Buxton on the list, and W.R. (William Read Fricker) the W A Fricker on her list.

Discovering the existence of Miss Pritchard’s notes has been particularly helpful in our identification, for example, of men whose connection with Ham we have not yet been able to confirm (as with Joseph Sydney Edwards), or for those with high frequency names for whom there were too many possible candidates (Ernest Parsons) or whose first names were at variance with what appeared on the Commonwealth War Graves database (Walter Stanley Benson).  Learning that H.A. Gunner was Harold A Gunner, enabled us to zoom in on the H. A. Gunner who was the son of the headmaster of a school in South Petherwin and who was neither a resident nor a native of the parish.   We later discovered that he had, however, had a link with St Andrew’s Church, being amongst the members of the Church Choir who were ‘serving with the colours’.

Coming across these notes was the first intimation I had that the inscriptions we see today, for those who lost their lives in the Great War, differs from what was there in the past.  Miss Pritchard thought these changes might have been made when the names of those who died in the Second World War were added to the memorial.  Between the wars, the parish population had multiplied, so it was in the unusual position of having as many lives lost on active service in the Second World War as there had been in the First World War.  There was not the space to add the second ‘crop’ of names to this memorial, which was also going to include the names of civilians killed as a result of military action in the Second World War.

Without resorting to the more egalitarian solution of providing only initials plus surname, there would have to have been a second memorial, which might well have detracted from the first.   Instead, today we have a memorial which pays tribute to all the dead of the two wars which were to bring home to so many families, the horror of war.

The removal and re-inscription of the Great War’s names, also explains how Felix Hanbury Tracy’s name was mis-transcribed and why the error was probably not spotted until later, both his parents having died within ten years of the First World War.

The volunteers working to record the stories of Ham’s War Dead, have had something of a life-line thrown to us by Evelyn Pritchard recording of this lost information.  As we battled to match four WW2 casualties, W. Dent, H. Knight, K. Stevens and E. Wilks to a family or an employer within the parish, what would we not have given to have been able to access similar help from notes made when the Second World War names were added to the memorial!

For the details we obtained of the earlier inscriptions on the memorial, we are indebted to Ham’s assiduous historian, the late Evelyn Pritchard, who listed these in the notes referenced below.

Further reading
1] Pritchard, E., Typed notes, undated, p. 13–16 [Source location: Richmond Local Studies Library, ‘Church Road Ham Folder, St Andrew’s Church Section’].

About Margaret Frood

Margaret Frood is a Family and Local Historian with an insatiable curiosity about the partially told stories of a family's past. Her four war memorial blogs have been created in the hope that they will help to rescue from oblivion the stories of those listed on the war memorials of Petersham, Ham and Tur Langton, as well as Southern Africans commemorated in the UK and in Western Europe.
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